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ART. 1.-COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE ATLANTIC AND PACIFIC
PROGRESS OF AMERICAN POPULATION AND TERRITORIES: CALIFORNIA
AND OREGON; PROJECTED COMMUNICATIONS ACROSS THE CONTINENT BY LAND AND WATER; PANAMA AND TEHUANTEPEC CANALS AND RAILROADS; TRADE AND COMMERCE OF THE EAST; RAILROAD FROM TAMPICO AND NATCHEZ TO MAZATLAN; FROM VERA CRUZ TO ACAPULCO; FROM GALVESTON TO SAN DIEGO; FROM ST. LOUIS TO SAN FRANCISCO; FROM MICHIGAN TO OREGON; FROM MEMPHIS TO SAN DIEGO; PROGRESS OF RAILROAD ENTERPRISE.
From a period almost coeval with the first settlement of America, we find the idea of a connection between the two great oceans, washing its eastern and western shores, by some safe and expeditious passage, either over the peninsula or through the interior of the continent, continually suggested, and receiving various degrees of consideration. The subject has assumed, in the present day, a new and higher degree of interest and importance, from the fact, so little to have been anticipated, that the American people, with the extraordinary energy of their democratic institutions, having filled up with a dense population all the earlier discovered and occupied territories, have, while yet scarce “hardened into manhood," swept across the “impassable” mountains, overspread the great valleys, and penetrated in immense numbers through the wildernesses of the Oregon, the Sacramento, and the Gila, to the very
shores of the Pacific Ocean. The free and unconquerable spirit of the Puritan, the Cavalier, and the Huguenot, creates new revolutions in the regions of the setting sun.
But sixty years ago, when the first American census was taken, the main slope of the Apalachian Mountains, was found to be the western barrier, confining nine-tenths of the population within something like three hundred thousand square miles of territory.* The four millions of inhabitants at that time registered, have swelled in this period to nearly twenty-three millions, and the three hundred thousand miles of inhabited territory to two millions of miles, excluding the late acquisitions of Oregon, California, and New Mexico, embracing, by the estimation of
• Darby's Letter to Mr, Calhoun, Com. Review, Vol. III.
the land office, eight hundred and sixty-seven thousand five hundred and forty-one additional square miles! Thus have we a people, blessed with freedom and enterprise, doubling in every generation their numbers, and occupying an empire three millions of square miles in extent-scarcely less than the whole of Europe, including Russia, and wanting one-third only of the great Russian empire, extending from the Baltic, over three continents, to the western spurs of the Rocky Mountains. The sea-coasts alone of this enormous republic stretch out five thousand one hundred and twenty miles; or, if we follow the irregularities of the bays and islands, thirty-three thousand and sixty-three miles-greater, by onethird, than the whole circuit of the earth! *
Frightful as have been the wastes to be crossed by this population, the “feet of men, and even children and tender women, have been beating out a track," over which the heavy wagon has rattled, among crags and rocks, in defiance of the vain obstacles of nature.
Most wonderful of all-in the depths of the valleys, and by the streams of the rivers they have crossed, has been discovered a region that realizes the fabled El Dorado, for which De Soto and Cortes and Raleigh so vainly sighed-possessing in its bowels illimitable treasures of virgin gold, so rich and rare, that they promise to easy labor, almost without effort, untold wealth, and to the world a supply of the precious metals which shall exceed all the “Orient Ind," in the days of Solomon or since, has yielded from its prolific bowels, or has been searched to where the sunny fountains” of “ Old Afric"
“Roll down their golden sand." Never, in the history of mankind—not even when Columbus carried to Europe the tawny Indian, or when extravagant stories of the wealth of the Mexicans and of Peru, were wasted across the ocean, or when the Crusaders were marching upon the East, or the “ South Sea Bubble” or the “ Mississippi Scheme" were at their height-never has been excitement wound up to a higher pitch, or expectancy upon the keener alert. Men of all ages-of all arts, and pursuits, and professions, from all classes of society, even surrounded with the greatest comforts and highest allurements of home-have forgotten their legitimate avocations, thrown aside lucrative posts and callings as utterly worthless, and, braving the ocean for thousands and tens of thousands of miles, or inhospitable climes, and frightful journeys through trackless wildernesses, in handfuls or in vast cavalcades, full of hope and enterprise, taken up their extraordinary pilgrimage to endure the fierce hardships of the placers of the Sacramento, and the mountain gorges, in their ceaseless search for GOLD! Wonderful, wonderful is this great passion for wealth, which, like a despot, rules over our wills and controls and masters our associations and affections, and breaks up, with remorseless strokes, every link and bond and sacred connection in life! God, by it, works out the DESTINIES OF MAN.
Coast Survey, under Prof. Bache, 1848. + The Spaniards would appear to have been on this California gold track three centuries ago, but destiny reserved the prize for us. We quote from the “ American Review."
** At the same period, also, while De Soto worked his weary way amidst the
But we have not time for these reflections. It is now computed that the whole number of persons who have reached California cannot vary far from twenty thousand," and that those on the way, and to start, will, in a few months more, swell the aggregate lo at least fifty or sixty thousand-sufficient to form a state government. What may be the future population of this region it is now impossible to argue, though embracing, as it does, an area of five hundred and twenty-six thousand and seventy-eight square miles, if we give to it the average density of two to the square mile, the density of the Valley of the Mississippi as far back as 1810, when but few states had been formed, we would have one million of inhabitants; or, adopting the present density of Pennsylvania, there would be abundant room for twenty millions.
A similar compution being made for Oregon, which has three hundred and forty-one thousand four hundred and sixty-three square miles, would give either seven hundred thousand or fifteen millions. It would not be an unreasonable calculation, we think, to estimate a population west of the Rocky Mountains, in the course of one century from this, as large
mountains and among the reedy marshes of the East, and the second Pizarro searched vainly for the El Dorado of the South, Vasquez Coronado was equally indefatigable in his search for the tradisionary golden cities and inexhaustible mines of New Mexico and California. In common with De Soto and the South American explorers, he failed in the primary object of bis expedition; failed, too, if we may fully credit the announced discoveries in California, when the coveted prize of his toil was almost within his grasp.
The expedition by Coronado 'was undertaken under an implicit belief in the ex. istence of vast treasures in the regions norih of Mexico, falling within the terri. lories known as New Mexico and California, and wow constituting part of the republic of the United States. This belief was based upon accounts, somewhat vague it is true, but all concurring in substance, and was universally entertained by the Spaniards of that day. The sea expedition on the Pacific, undertaken by Ulloa in 1539, under the direction of Cortez, had for its object not less the discovery of the golden region of the north than the exploration of the coast. And when, in 1510, it was resolved to send northward a land expedi'ion upon the same search, the right of command was contested between Cortez, as Captain General of New Spain, and Mendoza, as Viceroy of Mexico. The latter was successful, and Cortez, disappointed and disgusted, returned to Spain. This inci. dent will show how high were the anticipations which the Spaniards had formed of the riches of the Californian El Dorado. The documents of that period, which have been recovered from the rich historical depositories of Spain, present us with some singular illustrations of the extravagant notions then prevalent; and, although to a great extent proved by subsequent events to be unfounded, are, nevertheless, at ihis time not without their interest."
* The number which left the United States between December 14th and April 17th last, was. according to the Herald :
RECAPITULATION. Total in 226 vessels, via Cape Horn..
14,191 52 Chagres..
3,547 11 Vera Cruz....
698 11 Brazos.
765 3 Corpus Christi...
103 2 San Juan River..
87 1 Galveston.
86 1 Lavaca...
Total in 309
as the present population of the Union. There are causes at work to indicate this.
Three years ago, as if impelled by a vision of this western progress, so soon to receive the most powerful impetus, the people of the southwest and west repaired to Memphis in one great convention. We were a delegate to that body from South Carolina, and well remember the enthusiasm which was excited by the remark of her great statesman, who presided on the occasion: “In less than one generation, the West will be engaged in deliberations to extend its connections with the Pacific, as it is now with the Atlantic, and that connection will be as intimate with the one as the other. In the end, we will command the commerce of both, and this great valley become the center of the commerce of the world." Mr. Calhoun was right, though the shadows were cast more rapidly than even he could conceive. The hour is already come! A second great western convention is proposed, and delegates are again invited from wide-spread regions to Memphis, on the Fouth of July.* The occasion is a fitting one for the investigation and discussion we now propose.
Until the late explorations conducted by Col. Fremont, very errone. ous ideas have prevailed in regard to the character of the country to the westward of the Rocky Mountains. It was customary to denounce it a hopeless, sterile waste, where the arts of civilized men could never prevail
. Imperfect as the explorations have been, the most fruitful and abundant regions have been already found, with the finest climates, forests, and streams. Artificial irrigation is regarded practicable where ihese last have been wanting. We have the valley between the blue and far west mountains—the beautiful country of the Walla Walla—the regions about the Columbia, from the straits of Fuca to the waters of the Umpqua—the much abused and little understood "Great Basin," where Fremont found a “rich alluvion soil”—the valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin-the country to the northward of the Bay of San Francisco, as well as toward Monterey—the valley of St. Joseph and to the southward of Point Conception-Monterey Bay, Los Angelos, &c., &c. “I read,” says Mr. Benton, “to show that there is good country in the mountains; but I have more beautiful yet to showthe Three Parks,' unsurpassed by any thing in Switzerland, replete with all the beauty of the most picturesque parts of Switzerland, and without glaciers.”
We believe that this whole region will eventually be one of flourishing empire. Its most unfavorable sites will not suffer in the comparison with some of the most inhospitable of prosperous New England. The improvements in arts has made the desert and the wilderness bloom. As yet, imagination cannot even picture the treasures in gold and precious stones which are concealed among the mountains and through the beds of rivers. These must necessarily attract a large population, and build up villages and great cities. With a command of
* We have the circular of the committee on correspondence before us, and an able paper by the same gentlemen in pamphlet form, containing a most interesting letter from Lieut. Maury to Mr. T. Butler King. We hope to attend the convention, and take part in its proceedings.
the precious metals, the inhabitants may have the command of commerce. The East is before them, at their very doors; that East which has furnished rich products from all antiquity, and held out golden visions of unlimited trade to all civilized nations; the East which built
up Alexandria—which caused Venice to spring from the marshes of the Adriatic, and the "abodes of fishermen" to rival in splendor, pomp and magnificence, all the world had hitherto seen; the East that enriched the Portuguese, enabled the Dutch to compete for the sovereignty of the seas, and gave at last to their great rival across the channel, as it were, the very trident of Neptune himself. There is no fancy in this. Western America may have her high destiny 100; and we, and all the world else, may seek to share it with her, by opening channels of frequent intercourse and communication.
Neither California nor Oregon are more distant from the seats of eastern commerce on the Pacific, than is Europe from our Atlantic coasts, yel already have we an annual commerce with Europe of about two hundred and fifty millions of dollars. Is not Western America, in the progress of her history, capable of a similar trade by the Pacific ? Her ports and harbors, Fuca, San Francisco, Monterey, San Diego, if not all that could be desired, are at least sufficient.
Western America can compete with Europe in the eastern trade, being several months nearer-all experience showing that the amount of trade increases generally in a ratio with the facilities and rapidity of intercourse. She can compete with Eastern America in this same trade for a similar reason. Admitting a dense and enterprising population beyond the mountains, these propositions cannot be disputed. The great question, however, occurs, and this will determine the whole matter, can Western America herself be brought into connection with the Ailantic, and thus with Europe, so as to enable her to trade with the world in India products, on such terms as will secure the monopoly? At present she has no such connection, but is isolated and alone, and must resort to the seas upon less advantage than Eastern Asia. Shall she ever reinain so ?
Let us see what has been proposed since the earliest periods, to connect the shores and commerce of the American continent, and whether any plan is practicable, and which? The time has come to settle this question. But first it is well to determine what Eastern America has to gain in the event of success, or in other and plainer language-what is the value of eastern commerce ?*
When Venice conducted the commerce of the East she supplied all the world with its products. The disadvantages of this trade were great, land carriage as well as sea, and various shipments and reshipments, yet the richness of the trade endured them all, and made her “Queen of cities—a new Tyre.” The Byzantians had long before conducted the same trade, by voyages up the Indus, overland communi
* Mr. T. Butler King, in his able report upon the Panam araiiroad, advorts to one great cause of British commercial supremacy, that "she not only has the ports of the coutinent of Europe as her neighbors, but she is fifteen hundred miles, or two wreks, nearer than we are to all the other ports of the worid, except the Atlantic ports of the American continent north of the equator and the West